Seminar: A History of Cell Molecular Biology Schedule
Meeting Time: Wednesdays 1:30-4:20PM
Meeting Location: Cobb 403
This course will trace the parallel histories of cell and molecular biology, focusing particularly on the 20th century. Through discussion, we will explore continuities and discontinuities between these fields and their precursors. In addition, we will strive to not only develop definitions of cell and molecular biology that are based upon their practices and explanatory strategies, but also to determine to what extent these practices and strategies overlap. Finally, we will examine the relevance of these definitions to current developments in biology. This seminar is not designed to be comprehensive, but rather to provide an overall framework for thinking about the historical development of and conceptual tensions between cell and molecular biology.
The following books are required and are available for purchase in the Seminary Cooperative Bookstore (5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.). Copies have also been placed on reserve in the Crerar Library:
William Bechtel (2006) Discovering Cell Mechanisms (Cambridge) Robert Olby (1994) The Path to the Double Helix (Dover)
Readings will include selected articles from the primary scientific literature, historical essays by scientists, and works by historians and philosophers of biology. All readings not from Bechtel or Olby will be available on Chalk under Library Course Reserves.
- Read required materials prior to class and participate in class discussions (30%).
- Write and turn in a weekly one-page “reaction paper” to one or more of the required readings by 12 noon on Tuesday prior to the relevant class (20%). Reaction papers are required for Sessions #2-7 and #9. [Note: I am experimenting with the Chalk Discussion Forum tool to post these papers.] The reaction papers will not be graded, but late or absent reaction papers may affect your final grade.
- Submit (via e-mail) a one page paper topic outline by Monday May 12th. Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to meet with me prior to May 12th to discuss paper ideas (10%).
- A final paper on a course topic of interest. Undergraduate papers should be 8-10 pages long (double-spaced) exclusive of references; graduate student papers should be 12-15 pages long (double-spaced) exclusive of references (40%).
Paper Submission Deadlines
Graduating Seniors: NO LATER THAN THE START OF THE LAST CLASS - JUNE 4th!!
All Other Students: NO LATER THAN MIDNIGHT JUNE 14th!!
Please submit papers electronically - preferably as a Word document.
By appointment. My office is located in the Surgery-Brain Bldg., 58th St. and Ellis Ave., Room J557. Appointments can be arranged by contacting Mr. Ruth Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Sessions, Topics, and Readings
Session #1 April 2nd
Introduction: What is cell biology? What is molecular biology?
What do biologists mean when they define themselves as cell or molecular biologists? Are there differences? Are these really separate disciplines? What is the perception of the general public? Of historians and philosophers of biology? If they are separate disciplines, what are their defining characteristics? A "classic" history of the life sciences in the 20th century (up to the 1970s) does not mention cell biology. Why is that?
- Bechtel, W. (2006). Discovering Cell Mechanisms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-18.
- Judson, H.F. (1979) The Eighth Day of Creation. New York: Touchstone-Simon and Schuster. pp. 201-222.
Session #2 April 9th
Historical Foundations: From the 19th to the 20th century
To what extent do cell and molecular biology share a common origin? Did cell and molecular biology develop from cytology and genetics? What were fundamental unsolved questions in biology at the turn of the century?
- Wilson, E.B. (1924) Introduction. In: General Cytology, E.V. Cowdry ed., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 1-11.
- Sturtevant, A.H. (1965) A History of Genetics. New York: Harper and Row, pp. 1-50.
- Müller-Wille, S. and Rheinberger, H.-J. (2012) A Cultural History of Heredity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 81-94.
- Pauly, P. (1984). The appearance of academic biology in late nineteenth-century America. Journal of the History of Biology 17: 369-397.
- Bechtel, W. (2006). Discovering Cell Mechanisms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 64-89.
- Just, E.E. (1939). The Biology of the Cell Surface. Philadelphia: P. Blakiston's Son and Co., pp. 1-30.
- Moore, J.A. (1993) Science As a Way of Knowing. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, pp. 302-327.
- Sapp, J. (2009). “Just” in time: Gene theory and the biology of the cell surface. Molecular reproduction and development 76: 903-911.
Session #3 April 16th
The Origins of Molecular Biology
The history of molecular biology is well known: physics and genetics came together, the structure of DNA was discovered, and biology was revolutionized. Is this accurate? Was this standard narrative of molecular biology an outgrowth of nineteenth century biology and genetics, or was it distinct?
- Olby, R. (1990). The molecular revolution in biology. In: Companion to the History of Modern Science, eds. R.C. Olby, G.N. Cantor, J.R.R. Christie, and M.J.S. Hodge, 503-520, London: Routledge.
- Olby, R. (1994) The Path to the Discovery of the Double Helix. New York: Dover, pp. 167-320.
- Keller, E. (1990). Physics and the Emergence of Molecular Biology: A History of Cognitive and Political Synergy. Journal of the History of Biology 23: 389-409.
- Kay, L.E. (1993) The Molecular Vision of Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 77-103, pp. 121-142.
- Kendrew, J.C. (2007). How molecular biology started. In: Phage and the Origins of Molecular Biology, eds. J. Cairns, G. Stent, and J. Watson, 343-347, Cold Spring Harbor: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
- Delbrück, M. (2007). A physicist looks at biology. In: Phage and the Origins of Molecular Biology, eds. J. Cairns, G. Stent, and J. Watson, Cold Spring Harbor: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, pp. 9-22.
Session #4 April 23rd
DNA and the Central Dogma
Was the discovery of DNA the beginning or the end of an era, or both? How did the discovery affect explanatory strategies in biology? To what extent is contemporary biology indebted to Watson and Crick's finding?
- Watson, J.D. and Crick, F.H. (1953). Molecular structure of nucleic acids; a structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid. Nature 171: 737-738.
- Watson, J.D. and Crick, F.H. (1953). Genetical implications of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid. Nature 171: 964-967.
- Olby, R. (1994) The Path to the Discovery of the Double Helix. New York: Dover, pp. 323-443.
- Crick, F. (1958) On protein synthesis. Symposium of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine 12:138-163.
- Optional: Crick, F. (1970). Central dogma of molecular biology. Nature 227: 561-563.
- Strasser, B. (2006). A world in one dimension: Linus Pauling, Francis Crick and the central dogma of molecular biology. Hist. Phil. Life Sci. 25: 491-512.
- Russell, N. (1988). Oswald Avery and the Origin of Molecular Biology. The British Journal for the History of Science 21: 393-400.
- Rheinberger, H.-J. (1996). Comparing Experimental Systems: Protein Synthesis in Microbes and in Animal Tissue at Cambridge (Ernest F. Gale) and at the Massachusetts General Hospital (Paul C. Zamecnik), 1945-1960. Journal of the History of Biology 29: 387-416.
Session #5 April 30th
The Origins of Modern Cell Biology
What distinguishes cell biology from cytology? What technological developments contributed to the origins of modern cell biology? Which of these were most important? How were these techniques employed?
- Bechtel, W. (2006). Discovering Cell Mechanisms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 118- 189.
- Rasmussen, N. (1997). Picture Control. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, pp. 102- 152.
- Claude, A. (1948). Studies on cells: morphology, chemical constitution, and distribution of biochemical functions. Harvey Lect 43: 121-164.
- Porter, K.R. et al. (1945). A study of tissue culture cells by electron microscopy: Methods and preliminary observations. J Exp Med 81: 233-246.
- Optional: Porter, K.R. and Blum, J. (1953). A study in microtomy for electron microscopy. Anat Rec 117: 685-709.
- Porter, K.R. and Bennett, H.S. (1981) Introduction: Recollections on the Beginnings of the Journal of Cell
Biology In: Discovery in Cell Biology, J.Cell Biol. 91(Pt. 2 - Suppl.): vii-ix.
Session #6 May 7th
Case Study in the History of Cell Biology: The Secretory Pathway
One of the most important early accomplishments in modern cell biology was the elucidation of the secretory pathway in eukaryotic cells. How were the new techniques of cell biology employed to make these discoveries? Was a particular explanatory strategy employed.
- Bechtel, W. (2006). Discovering Cell Mechanisms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 222-249.
- Palade, G. (1975). Intracellular aspects of the process of protein synthesis. Science 189: 347-358.
- Palade, G.E. (1955). A small particulate component of the cytoplasm. The Journal of biophysical and biochemical cytology 1: 59.
- Palade, G.E., and Siekevitz, P. (1956). Liver microsomes an integrated morphological and biochemical study. J Cell Biol 2: 171-200.
- Jamieson, J.D., and Palade, G.E. (1967). Intracellular transport of secretory proteins in the pancreatic exocrine cell. I. Role of the peripheral elements of the Golgi complex. J Cell Biol 34: 577-596.
- Jamieson, J.D., and Palade, G.E. (1967). Intracellular transport of secretory proteins in the pancreatic exocrine cell. II. Transport to condensing vacuoles and zymogen granules. J Cell Biol 34: 597-615.
Session #7 May 14th
Cell Biology Without Cells
In the 1970s cell biologists began to investigate processes in cell-free or “in vitro” systems. Why did they do this? What distinguishes this approach from approaches used by biochemists and molecular biologists? Was the epistemic strategy of such experiments different from the strategies utilized earlier by Claude and Palade?
- Redman, C.M. et al. (1966). Synthesis and transfer of amylase in pigeon pancreatic microsomes. The Journal of biological chemistry 241: 1150-1158.
- Blobel, G., and Dobberstein, B. (1975). Transfer of proteins across membranes. I. Presence of proteolytically processed and unprocessed nascent immunoglobulin light chains on membrane-bound ribosomes of murine myeloma. J Cell Biol 67: 835-851.
- Blobel, G., and Dobberstein, B. (1975). Transfer of proteins across membranes. II. Reconstitution of functional rough microsomes from heterologous components. J Cell Biol 67: 852-862.
- Blobel, G. (1980). Intracellular protein topogenesis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 77: 1496-1500.
- Matlin, K.S. (2011). Spatial expression of the genome: the signal hypothesis at forty.
Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 12: 333-340.
Session #8 May 21st (no class - work on papers)
Session #9 May 28th
Reductionism and Reductive Explanation in Biology
Reductionism is frequently associated with modern biology. What is it - an ontological conviction or an approach to scientific discovery? If you are an anti-reductionist, are you also a vitalist?
- Brigandt, I., and Love, A. (2012). Reductionism in biology. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- Darden, L., and Craver, C.F. (2001). Reductionism in Biology. In: Encyclopedia of Life Sciences (eLS). Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons, Ltd., pp. 1-6.
- Sarkar, S. (1998). Genetics and Reductionism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 136-174.
- Kitcher, P. (1984). 1953 and all that. A tale of two sciences Phil. Rev. 93: 335-373.
- Fuerst, J. (1982). The Role of Reductionism in the Development of Molecular Biology: Peripheral or Central? Social Studies of Science 12: 241-278.
- McKaughan, D.J. (2011) Was Delbrück a reductionist? In: Creating a Physical Biology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 179-210. OR Roll-Hansen, N. (2011) Neils Bohr and Max Delbrück: Balancing autonomy and reductionism in biology. In: Creating a Physical Biology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 145-178.
- Beckwith, J. (1996). The hegemony of the gene: reductionism in molecular biology. In: The Philosophy and History of Molecular Biology: New Perspectives, ed. S. Sarkar, 171-183, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Session #10 June 4th [Papers due for graduating seniors!]
Genomics and Systems Biology
Biology in the 21st Century is dominated by "high throughput techniques" and “BigData” approaches. How are these related to molecular biology and cell biology? Systems biology is viewed by some as a reaction to reductionism as an approach to explaining complex biological systems. If so, then what as changed in system biology's epistemic strategy?
- Optional (but classic): Stent, G.S. That was the molecular biology that was. In: Phage and the Origins of Molecular Biology, eds. J. Cairns, G. Stent, and J. Watson, Cold Spring Harbor: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, pp. 348-362.
- Wright, S. (1986). Recombinant DNA Technology and Its Social Transformation, 1972- 1982. Osiris 2: 303-360.
- Optional: Woese, C.R. (2004). A new biology for a new century. Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev. 68: 173-186.
- Noble, D. (2008). Genes and causation. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 366: 3001-3015.
- Noble, D. (2011). The aims of systems biology: between molecules and organisms. Pharmacopsychiatry 44 Suppl 1: S9-S14.
- Callebaut, W. (2012). Scientific perspectivism: A philosopher of science's response to the challenge of big data biology. Studies in history and philosophy of biological and biomedical sciences 43: 69-80.
- Moss, L. (2003) What Gene's Can't Do. Cambridge: MIT Press, pp. 75-116.
June 5th-6th Reading Period